I frequently come across people who are not aware of the power of starting small. 

image: ruthquicknutrition.com

"I don't have time."
"I want to finish this and that first."
"I don't have enough resources."
"No one is willing to support me."
"I need to get to so-and-so level before I can start."
"It's going to be very demanding."
"No fund."
"Nigeria is not the right place to do something like this. Not enough people will appreciate the value."
"If only I had gotten his kind of opportunity."
"It's too late. The big guys have taken all, only crumbs are left."
"I can't start that small."

I'm obviously too young and inexperienced to give enough personal experiences/examples to prove the point I want to make. So for a start, you definitely have a valid reason to stick to whatever you tell yourself that hinders you from starting what you really want to do. Your excuses are valid. And I can't prove otherwise, at least, for now. Maybe 10 years from now I will have enough personal examples to show you why you need to brave up and start small.

But one thing is indisputable. The journey of a thousand mile will always start with a step. One step. And then another. Even a baby, weak and helpless, crawls and covers more distance than its mother wants. You are not weak. You are not helpless. You can do more than crawling. You can take a step, no matter how small. You can start small. 

If it's a book you've always wanted to write, you can start today. You can write a sentence a day.
If it's a business you want to start, you can register the business today. Start by giving it a name and registering the name.
If it's a house you want to build, you can open a special bank account for it. Start putting some money, no matter how small, into that account monthly.
Whatever it is you want to do, you can. If you start small.

The beauty of starting small is that your efforts compound. Writing one sentence daily is not going to give you just 365 sentences at the end of a year. No. It will give you much more. Most likely by the 6th month you would have progressed to writing 2 sentences a day. Then the quality of your sentences would have taken the lift up. The amount of time you spend writing one sentence would have reduced by more than half. Everyone around you will begin to notice your writing talent. New windows of opportunity will open up to you. Some lives would have been permanently touched by your writing. And best of all, it will become like brushing your teeth in the morning -- a very easy and natural task for you.

When you start small, you go further than your limitations. You open yourself up for miracles. And you exceed your expectations. 

All the skills that have earned me money, I acquired by self-study. Reading. 

image: blogs.adobe.com
  • I owe all my Excel skills to reading and practice. I didn't take any formal class in Excel. The first time I came across a formal training outline for Excel was while standing in as a training associate for a training firm. Now my livelihood is hinged on my Excel skills. Skills I acquired via reading and practicing what I read.
  • I have OCA, CCNA and CCNA voice certifications. I have worked as a CCNA instructor for a computer institute and was almost worshiped there. During my NYSC, I made some money as a private CCNA trainer. The only CCNA classes I have been in were the ones I was the trainer. I also got offers to facilitate Oracle training, which I turned down. The last offer was for N150,000 for a 5 days training with hotel accommodation and feeding. I acquired all these skills solely from reading books and practicing what I read. No formal class.
  • I still have a pending offer to become an online Linux instructor. I once made N150,000 from training a few people on Linux for less than a week. I have never worked on a Linux system that wasn't mine until I had become a Linux guru. I have written Linux shell scripts. I have installed Linux (over) 100 times. I have never attended a Linux training that I wasn't the facilitator. Everything I learned on Linux is self taught, from books.
  • I have learned more French from self-study than from formal classes. Swimming and French language are the only skills I have taken paid classes on. 
  • All my programming skills are self taught, from books. 
  • I hope you have been noticing the improvement in my writing skill. And only one thing is responsible for that -- reading books on writing.
  • I'm one of the exclusive members of an online expert community. I got a personal invitation from the founder, a US guy. I answer people's technical questions and have made some people's day. One even gave me his contacts in case I needed anything he could help with. Another wanted to give me a bear hug. Where did I learn the answers I provided? Mostly from reading.
  • At the start of this year, I got an invitation to apply for a Valuation Analyst job for the Merger and Acquisitions arm of a big US technology firm. I went through a 3 hours test that covered Bookkeeping, Accounting, Finance, Microsoft Excel and Use of English. I passed and got a trial job, but I was still working full-time then and couldn't make out time for the trial job. How did I become so good in Finance, Accounting and Bookkeeping? You guessed right! Through reading, and putting my life saving in the stock market.
Today, I will show you the trick that has made it very easy for me to learn and become an expert solely from reading. With this trick you will be able to learn almost anything.

Like the advert on achieving an HIV/AIDS free generation, it begins with you. To learn from a book, any book, you matter most. Not the book nor the way it is written matters as much as you. I have read all types of book, even french books. Books that gave me headache while reading. And I'm sure you've had similar experiences while in the university. And you will agree with me that despite the headache you still learned from the book, even if it was just what was enough to make you pass a particular exam.

If you read with a mindset of finishing a book, no matter what, you will end up greatly increasing the amount of knowledge/skill you will gain from the book. What can be more boring than reading a book on freestyle swimming? Well, I have one of such books. I paid for the book and it's shipping to Nigeria. It's 2 years now since I have bought the book and I'm yet to get to half of it. It's so boring I seldom read more than a few pages at once. But without that book I will still be struggling with having the right form and breathing without lifting my head. 

To help me have the right mindset, I always buy the books I read. I don't borrow books or download them free online. Even when people send me the pdf copies of books I would love to read, I delete them and buy them. Buying books force me to read them with the attention and dedication required. It's like going to the cinema. You won't want to miss any scene. Despite the warnings and greater need, people still pick phone calls in church. But I have never seen anyone pick a phone call in the movie room. It rarely happens. That's how powerful paying for a thing can be. And for me, books are the things I spend on most. I still end up not reading every book I buy, but I buy them with the mindset of reading them cover to cover.

So once you have gotten the mindset of reading the book no matter what, the next and last step is to read several books on what you want to learn. I have more than one French grammar books. Maybe 5 or 6. Even when I google for something online, I often open as many as 8 search results at once. And I often read everyone, even if I found the answer in the first. When it comes to learning a skill or acquiring specialized knowledge, you don't know what you don't know. There are so many things that you don't know exist, and you'll seldom come across everything in one book. You'll have to read several.

In summary, to learn almost anything by reading books -- read with the mindset to finish and read a lot of books on the same thing.

Happy new week!

I think the internet is man's greatest invention. It is changing the world in ways no one can fully explain. It has led to the biggest industry on earth -- internet companies are worth more than any other industry's companies.

The world is now just a click away. Learning is just a YouTube.com or some other website away. There is no 3rd world or 1st world online. You've got the same edge as anyone from anywhere in the world. You have access to the same technology core. You are not limited to the knowledge that is only locally available. Your reach and market is now global. New opportunities and possibilities. In fact, the world is now a global hamlet.

image: readwrite.com

Unfortunately, a lot of us still see the internet as a youth thing. Or just a tool to help you get your emails and search for articles online. The internet is much more than that. It's more than a tool. It's more like a platform, a rising tide that raises all boats. And it's much more robust and powerful than to be referred as a youth thing. And to shock you a bit, it requires infinitely more intelligence than any other activity/field/platform/business in the world. A classic example is the founders of AirBnB, they ran out of cash while building their internet company and just to make some money to keep the internet company going they started a manufacturing company and succeeded extremely well, made more than the money they needed and went back to focusing on their internet business. Where do you think all the most intelligent and creative guys in the world are? I hope you are not thinking hospitals or banks or court rooms or on top of a telecoms mast. The most intelligent and creative guys in the world (maybe with the exclusion of Nigerians) are working for internet companies. Like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Even Apple and Microsoft are now rebranding as internet companies. And some of these guys are starting their own internet companies. It's the ultimate test of entrepreneurship. You compete with everyone in the world. Someone in India can suddenly put you out of business. Even Google can spin off a side project that will kill your business. 

Lots of manufacturing companies in Japan and South Korea now have internet controlled/enabled robots replacing factory workers. It is changing the manufacturing industry forever. Any task that can be automated is now automated. There are now self driving cars -- no pedals or steering wheel just an on/off button and destination picker. The business world is changing forever. Low skilled jobs will be automated, or filled with robots. What you can do with your hand will no longer be able to feed you, but what you can do with your brain. Companies making use of this internet enabled technologies will be able to produce everything from rice to beds to clothes to drugs to pots to papers to cement to packaged foods very cheaply and with very high quality. Such that it would be a no brainer to buy them over the locally produced ones. They will kill our local companies that (always) refuse to do things on a global standards level. 

Our local stores will now be facing competition from Amazon, eBay and other well established online stores. People will find their goods cheaper, find a wider range of products to choose from and get better customer service (which is missing in Nigeria). 

When the current 40+ years old generation pass away, the newspaper companies will have to find a new line of business. Some are already becoming events/training planners. The TV stations will have a tough time getting and keeping eyeballs. 

The internet is changing everything. 

First of all, I have published my second windows phone app. In one of my posts last month, I asked for phone app ideas and also mentioned some of the ideas I had. Well, one of them has transitioned from an idea to a real working published-on-Windows-store app. In the process of learning to build that app, I bought a Windows Lumia phone, 2 Windows phone 8 programming books and took video classes on PluralSight.

image: blogs.msdn.com

And that's not all. I have also been learning web development from scratch. Also bought a couple of books and already practicing. I'm already working on setting up a web app on www.nigerianelite.com I have migrated the site to web app hosting platform and should be done with a simple web app soon.

Then, I have been learning a lot in making training videos. Recorded and edited the training videos for my upcoming online Excel training. A herculean task. Used a paid software. Had to watch several tutorial videos on how to make and edit tutorial videos. Then I recorded a couple of videos 3 or 5 times before I could get a great output. 

I have also been learning a lot in business negotiation. There is no permanent "yes" and no permanent "no". And anyone can, and often, disappoints. If you're bent on getting paid what you are worth, you had better stick to a regular 8 - 5 job. Activities do not translate to money (the Yoruba version sounds better -- Ise ko lowo). Not only time flies, money also flies. 

But best of all, I have learned more about myself. I now know why business owners are often crazy people. If you have to spend to get a customer, then spend to provide the customer the product/service he needs, and then have to spend to get the customer to pay. You will soon become crazy. And I think I have joined them. Unfortunately, I became crazy in a crazy way. Doing a couple of the things I've read you should never do if you want to grow your customer base. And I tell people "No" a lot. Most especially prospective customers. I have become very choosy in the work I take up. Even the sight of my bank balance has lost it's steroid effects on me. I would rather sleep or read than do some jobs. And why? Most times it's simply because it's not completely an Excel work. And sometimes, it's even easier than an Excel work. I have also discovered than my relationship with books is no longer a healthy one. I have been buying more books than I intend to read. And draining my savings. I have also lost my ability to wake up early. I now get to events and meetings late, even the ones scheduled for afternoon. On some days I wake up at 10:00am and still feel sleepy. And I've become more introvertive. 

When you talk of working your way from rags to riches, no one did it better than Andrew Carnegie. He was born extremely poor. His parents couldn't even afford a proper face-me-I-face-you room. They had to share one with another family. Then they had no bed. Everyone slept on the floor. No formal schooling. He became a full-time worker at age 13, working 12 hours a day and 6 days a week as a factory boy. You could summarize his life in two words -- hard work. Everything he got in life, he worked crazy hard for it. And by keeping a simple lifestyle, being honest and focused, his hard work turned him into the second richest man on record in the history of man. In today's currency, he was worth more than 3 times the $78 billion Bill Gates is currently worth as the world's number 1. He was also, arguably, the world's greatest philanthropist.

Today, I will be sharing a part of his very inspiring speech on the road to success for young men. Delivered on June 23, 1885. You would have to bear with the English of that time. But the verity of his words still shine through today as it did over 100 years ago.

It's quite a long speech, so I have reproduced the summary part here (first):

To summarize what I have said: Aim for the highest; never enter a bar-room; do not touch liquor, or if at all only at meals; never speculate; never indorse beyond your surplus cash fund; make the firm's interest yours; break orders always to save owners; concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket; expenditure always within revenue; lastly, be not impatient, for, as Emerson says, "no one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourselves." I congratulate poor young men upon being born to that ancient and honourable degree which renders it necessary that they should devote themselves to hard work. A basketful of bonds is the heaviest basket a young man ever had to carry. He generally gets to staggering under it. We have in this city creditable instances of such young men, who have pressed to the front rank of our best and most useful citizens. These deserve great credit. But the vast majority of the sons of rich men are unable to resist the temptations to which wealth subjects them, and sink to unworthy lives. I would almost as soon leave a young man a curse, as burden him with the almighty dollar. It is not from this class you have rivalry to fear. The partner's sons will not trouble you much, but look out that some boys poorer, much poorer than yourselves, whose parents cannot afford to give them the advantages of a course in this institute, advantages which should give you a decided lead in the race -- look out that such boys do not challenge you at the post and pass you at the grand stand. Look out for the boy who has to plunge into work direct from the common school and who begins by sweeping out the office. He is the probable dark horse that you had better watch.

Enjoy the longer version. (I skipped some parts to improve the flow, you can read the full speech here)

It is well that young men should begin at the beginning and occupy the most subordinate positions. Many of the leading business men of Pittsburg had a serious responsibility thrust upon them at the very threshold of their career. They were introduced to the broom, and spent the first hours of their business lives sweeping out the office. I notice we have janitors and janitresses now in offices, and our young men unfortunately miss that salutary branch of a business education ...

Assuming that you have all obtained employment and are fairly started, my advice to you is "aim high." ...

Let me indicate two or three conditions essential to success ... You all know that there is no genuine, praiseworthy success in life if you are not honest, truthful, fair-dealing. I assume you are and will remain all these, and also that you are determined to live pure, respectable lives, free from pernicious or equivocal associations with one sex or the other. There is no creditable future for you else. Otherwise your learning and your advantages not only go for naught, but serve to accentuate your failure and your disgrace. I hope you will not take it amiss if I warn you against three of the gravest dangers which will beset you in your upward path.

The first and most seductive, and the destroyer of most young men, is the drinking of liquor. I am no temperance lecturer in disguise, but a man who knows and tells you what observation has proved to him, and I say to you that you are more likely to fail in your career from acquiring the habit of drinking liquor than from any, or all, the other temptations likely to assail you. You may yield to almost any other temptation and reform--may brace up, and if not recover lost ground, at least remain in the race and secure and maintain a respectable position. But from the insane thirst for liquor escape is almost impossible. I have known but few exceptions to this rule. First, then, you must not drink liquor to excess. Better if you do not touch it at all--much better; but if this be too hard a rule for you then take your stand firmly here. Resolve never to touch it except at meals. A glass at dinner will not hinder your advance in life or lower your tone; but I implore you hold it inconsistent with the dignity and self-respect of gentlemen, with what is due from yourselves to yourselves, being the men you are, and especially the men you are determined to become, to drink a glass of liquor at a bar. Be far too much of the gentleman ever to enter a barroom. You do not pursue your careers in safety unless you stand firmly upon this ground. Adhere to it and you have escaped danger from the deadliest of your foes.

The next greatest danger to a young business man in this community I believe to be that of speculation. When I was a telegraph operator here we had no Exchanges in the City, but the men or firms who speculated upon the Eastern Exchanges were necessarily known to the operators. They could be counted on the fingers of one hand. These men were not our citizens of first repute: they were regarded with suspicion. I have lived to see all of these speculators irreparably ruined men, bankrupt in money and bankrupt in character. There is scarcely an instance of a man who has made a fortune by speculation and kept it. Gamesters die poor, and there is certainly not an instance of a speculator who has lived a life creditable to himself, or advantageous to the community. The man who grasps the morning paper to see first how his speculative ventures upon the Exchanges are likely to result, unfits himself for the calm consideration and proper solution of business problems, with which he has to deal later in the day, and saps the sources of that persistent and concentrated energy upon which depend the permanent success, and often the very safety, of his main business.

The speculator and the business man tread diverging lines. The former depends upon the sudden turn of fortune's wheel; he is a millionnaire to-day, a bankrupt to-morrow. But the man of business knows that only by years of patient, unremitting attention to affairs can he earn his reward, which is the result, not of chance, but of well-devised means for the attainment of ends. During all these years his is the cheering thought that, by no possibility can he benefit himself without carrying prosperity to others. The speculator on the other hand had better never have lived so far as the good of others or the good of the community is concerned. Hundreds of young men were tempted in this city not long since to gamble in oil, and many were ruined; all were injured whether they lost or won. You may be, nay, you are certain to be similarly tempted; but when so tempted I hope you will remember this advice. Say to the tempter who asks you to risk your small savings, that if ever you decide to speculate you are determined to go to a regular and well-conducted house where they cheat fair. You can get fair play and about an equal chance upon the red and black in such a place; upon the Exchange you have neither. You might as well try your luck with the three-card-monte man. There is another point involved in speculation. Nothing is more essential to young business men than untarnished credit, credit begotten of confidence in their prudence, principles and stability of character. Well, believe me, nothing kills credit sooner in any Bank Board than the knowledge that either firms or men engage in speculation. It matters not a whit whether gains or losses be the temporary result of these operations. The moment a man is known to speculate, his credit is impaired, and soon thereafter it is gone. How can a man be credited whose resources may be swept away in one hour by a panic among gamesters? Who can tell how he stands among them? except that this is certain: he has given due notice that he may stand to lose all, so that those who credit him have themselves to blame. Resolve to be business men, but speculators never.

The third and last danger against which I shall warn you is one which has wrecked many a fair craft which started well and gave promise of a prosperous voyage. It is the perilous habit of indorsing--all the more dangerous, inasmuch as it assails one generally in the garb of friendship. It appeals to your generous instincts, and you say, "How can I refuse to lend my name only, to assist a friend?" It is because there is so much that is true and commendable in that view that the practice is so dangerous. Let me endeavor to put you upon safe honourable grounds in regard to it. I would say to you to make it a rule now, never indorse: but this is too much like never taste wine, or never smoke, or any other of the "nevers." They generally result in exceptions. You will as business men now and then probably become security for friends. Now, here is the line at which regard for the success of friends should cease and regard for your own honour begins.

If you owe anything, all your capital and all your effects are a solemn trust in your hands to be held inviolate for the security of those who have trusted you. Nothing can be done by you with honour which jeopardizes these first claims upon you. When a man in debt indorses for another, it is not his own credit or his own capital he risks, it is that of his own creditors. He violates a trust. Mark you then, never indorse until you have cash means not required for your own debts, and never indorse beyond those means. Before you indorse at all, consider indorsements as gifts, and ask yourselves whether you wish to make the gift to your friend and whether the money is really yours to give and not a trust for your creditors.

You are not safe, gentlemen, unless you stand firmly upon this as the only ground which an honest business man can occupy.

I beseech you avoid liquor, speculation and indorsement. Do not fail in either, for liquor and speculation are the Scylla and Charybdis of the young man's business sea, and indorsement his rock ahead.

Assuming you are safe in regard to these your gravest dangers, the question now is how to rise from the subordinate position we have imagined you in, through the successive grades to the position for which you are, in my opinion, and, I trust, in your own, evidently intended. I can give you the secret. It lies mainly in this. Instead of the question, "What must I do for my employer?" substitute "What can I do?" Faithful and conscientious discharge of the duties assigned you is all very well, but the verdict in such cases generally is that you perform your present duties so well that you had better continue performing them. Now, young gentlemen, this will not do. It will not do for the coming partners. There must be something beyond this. We make Clerks, Bookkeepers, Treasurers, Bank Tellers of this class, and there they remain to the end of the chapter. The rising man must do something exceptional, and beyond the range of his special department. HE MUST ATTRACT ATTENTION. A shipping clerk, he may do so by discovering in an invoice an error with which he has nothing to do, and which has escaped the attention of the proper party. If a weighing clerk, he may save for the firm by doubting the adjustment of the scales and having them corrected, even if this be the province of the master mechanic. If a messenger boy, even he can lay the seed of promotion by going beyond the letter of his instructions in order to secure the desired reply. There is no service so low and simple, neither any so high, in which the young man of ability and willing disposition cannot readily and almost daily prove himself capable of greater trust and usefulness, and, what is equally important, show his invincible determination to rise.

Some day, in your own department, you will be directed to do or say something which you know will prove disadvantageous to the interest of the firm. Here is your chance. Stand up like a man and say so. Say it boldly, and give your reasons, and thus prove to your employer that, while his thoughts have been engaged upon other matters, you have been studying during hours when perhaps he thought you asleep, how to advance his interests. You may be right or you may be wrong, but in either case you have gained the first condition of success. You have attracted attention. Your employer has found that he has not a mere hireling in his service, but a man; not one who is content to give so many hours of work for so many dollars in return, but one who devotes his spare hours and constant thoughts to the business. Such an employee must perforce be thought of, and thought of kindly and well. It will not be long before his advice is asked in his special branch, and if the advice given be sound, it will soon be asked and taken upon questions of broader bearing. This means partnership; if not with present employers then with others. Your foot, in such a case, is upon the ladder; the amount of climbing done depends entirely upon yourself.

One false axiom you will often hear, which I wish to guard you against: "Obey orders if you break owners." Don't you do it. This is no rule for you to follow. Always break orders to save owners. There never was a great character who did not sometimes smash the routine regulations and make new ones for himself. The rule is only suitable for such as have no aspirations, and you have not forgotten that you are destined to be owners and to make orders and break orders. Do not hesitate to do it whenever you are sure the interests of your employer will be thereby promoted and when you are so sure of the result that you are willing to take the responsibility. You will never be a partner unless you know the business of your department far better than the owners possibly can. When called to account for your independent action, show him the result of your genius, and tell him that you knew that it would be so; show him how mistaken the orders were. Boss your boss just as soon as you can; try it on early. There is nothing he will like so well if he is the right kind of boss; if he is not, he is not the man for you to remain with--leave him whenever you can, even at a present sacrifice, and find one capable of discerning genius. Our young partners in the Carnegie firm have won their spurs by showing that we did not know half as well what was wanted as they did. Some of them have acted upon occasion with me as if they owned the firm and I was but some airy New Yorker presuming to advise upon what I knew very little about. Well, they are not interfered with much now. They were the true bosses--the very men we were looking for.

There is one sure mark of the coming partner, the future millionnaire; his revenues always exceed his expenditures. He begins to save early, almost as soon as he begins to earn. No matter how little it may be possible to save, save that little. Invest it securely, not necessarily in bonds, but in anything which you have good reason to believe will be profitable, but no gambling with it, remember. A rare chance will soon present itself for investment. The little you have saved will prove the basis for an amount of credit utterly surprising to you. Capitalists trust the saving young man. For every hundred dollars you can produce as the result of hard-won savings, Midas, in search of a partner, will lend or credit a thousand; for every thousand, fifty thousand. It is not capital that your seniors require, it is the man who has proved that he has the business habits which create capital, and to create it in the best of all possible ways, as far as self-discipline is concerned, is, by adjusting his habits to his means. Gentlemen, it is the first hundred dollars saved which tells. Begin at once to lay up something. The bee predominates in the future millionnaire.

Of course there are better, higher aims than saving. As an end, the acquisition of wealth is ignoble in the extreme; I assume that you save and long for wealth only as a means of enabling you the better to do some good in your day and generation. Make a note of this essential rule: Expenditure always within income.

You may grow impatient, or become discouraged when year by year you float on in subordinate positions. There is no doubt that it is becoming harder and harder as business gravitates more and more to immense concerns, for a young man without capital to get a start for himself, and in this city especially, where large capital is essential, it is unusually difficult. Still, let me tell you for your encouragement, that there is no country in the world, where able and energetic young men can so readily rise as this, nor any city where there is more room at the top. It has been impossible to meet the demand for capable, first-class bookkeepers (mark the adjectives) the supply has never been equal to the demand. Young men give all kinds of reasons why in their cases failure was clearly attributable to exceptional circumstances which render success impossible. Some never had a chance, according to their own story. This is simply nonsense. No young man ever lived who had not a chance, and a splendid chance, too, if he ever was employed at all. He is assayed in the mind of his immediate superior, from the day he begins work, and, after a time, if he has merit, he is assayed in the council chamber of the firm. His ability, honesty, habits, associations, temper, disposition, all these are weighed and analysed. The young man who never had a chance is the same young man who has been canvassed over and over again by his superiors, and found destitute of necessary qualifications, or is deemed unworthy of closer relations with the firm, owing to some objectionable act, habit, or association, of which he thought his employers ignorant.

Another class of young men attribute their failure to employers having relations or favourites whom they advanced unfairly. They also insist that their employers disliked brighter intelligences than their own, and were disposed to discourage aspiring genius, and delighted in keeping young men down. There is nothing in this. On the contrary, there is no one suffering so much for lack of the right man in the right place, nor so anxious to find him as the owner. There is not a firm in Pittsburg to-day which is not in the constant search for business ability, and every one of them will tell you that there is no article in the market at all times so scarce. There is always a boom in brains, cultivate that crop, for if you grow any amount of that commodity, here is your best market and you cannot overstock it, and the more brains you have to sell, the higher price you can exact. They are not quite so sure a crop as wild oats, which never fail to produce a bountiful harvest, but they have the advantage over these in always finding a market. Do not hesitate to engage in any legitimate business, for there is no business in America, I do not care what, which will not yield a fair profit if it receive the unremitting, exclusive attention, and all the capital of capable and industrious men. Every business will have its season of depression--years always come during which the manufacturers and merchants of the city are severely tried--years when mills must be run, not for profit, but at a loss, that the organization and men may be kept together and employed, and the concern may keep its products in the market. But on the other hand, every legitimate business producing or dealing in an article which man requires is bound in time to be fairly profitable, if properly conducted.

And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret: concentrate your energy, thought, and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun in one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it; adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.

The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is all wrong. I tell you "put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket." Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country. He who carries three baskets must put one on his head, which is apt to tumble and trip him up. One fault of the American business man is lack of concentration.

To summarize what I have said: Aim for the highest; never enter a bar-room; do not touch liquor, or if at all only at meals; never speculate; never indorse beyond your surplus cash fund; make the firm's interest yours; break orders always to save owners; concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket; expenditure always within revenue; lastly, be not impatient, for, as Emerson says, "no one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourselves." I congratulate poor young men upon being born to that ancient and honourable degree which renders it necessary that they should devote themselves to hard work. A basketful of bonds is the heaviest basket a young man ever had to carry. He generally gets to staggering under it. We have in this city creditable instances of such young men, who have pressed to the front rank of our best and most useful citizens. These deserve great credit. But the vast majority of the sons of rich men are unable to resist the temptations to which wealth subjects them, and sink to unworthy lives. I would almost as soon leave a young man a curse, as burden him with the almighty dollar. It is not from this class you have rivalry to fear. The partner's sons will not trouble you much, but look out that some boys poorer, much poorer than yourselves, whose parents cannot afford to give them the advantages of a course in this institute, advantages which should give you a decided lead in the race--look out that such boys do not challenge you at the post and pass you at the grand stand. Look out for the boy who has to plunge into work direct from the common school and who begins by sweeping out the office. He is the probable dark horse that you had better watch.

My favourite part of the movie Antz is where Barbatus said to Z, "Listen Z. Don't make my mistake; don't follow orders all your life. Think for yourself."

image: learnstreaming.com
We live in a society that tries to control our lives. As soon as we are born we are given names we are expected to bear till we die. Which, fortunately, is a good thing for us in Nigeria. Our parents don't call us Stone or Sand or East or West or Blue or some meaningless name. But we still don't get the choice of picking our names. Then we get sent off to school as soon as we can talk. Some even before they can talk. (This is also a good thing). We spend the next 20 years of our lives in school. Or trying to stay/get into a school. It's what the society expects of us. Then we move into the job market and live like robots. Doing the same thing week in week out. Even waking up the same hour of the day. Fortunately, all these are good. We become responsible people and create value and make wonderful friends along the way. 

It's just that the society tries to pass us through a mold and determine, on a macro level, who/what we become. Every day we get orders, from the alarm very early in the morning, from LASTMA, from our boss at work, and from clueless politicians. And once again it's a good thing. We don't want people showing up late at work, or commotion on the highways or everyone taking up arms against the politicians. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Most of us only live to meet expectations. Expectations of others. We let them set the goals. We, invariably, follow orders all our life.

"Do one thing everyday that scares you", Eleanor Roosevelt. 
On most days, my blog post is that scary thing. I'm sure there have been days you felt like unsubscribing from my email list, you didn't want to receive anymore daily crap from me. There probably would have been days you said to yourself, "Hmm, Michael is losing it. He doesn't know that there should be a boundary; some things are best left unsaid (or unwritten)." And there could have been days you wished we were meeting in person, so you could talk some sense into me. But most importantly, I wished there were some days, lots of days, that you felt like giving me a bear hug and telling me how inspiring you've found some of my posts. Unfortunately, none of these matters. I'm probably the most selfish person on planet earth. 

image: urbanwritersretreat.co.uk
The only reason I write daily is because I have a high aim. A very high aim. And I will lower my (writing) standards even below ground level to achieve that aim. (And hope my close relatives do not discover this blog). 

I once had this big book on how to survive as a soldier, especially under horrible living conditions and world's most terrible places. I never got to read 1% of the book. But I do remember well a part: the psychology of survival. It explains that history has always shown that it's not always the physically strongest nor the brainiest who hang on the longest to life when faced with impossible conditions of living during and after war. But it's always the enthusiastic, the ones who don't quit struggling/fighting even when they are outmatched by nature or opponents. The ones who aim very high, even against logic. They are the ones who make it. 

And I think it doesn't just apply to war but also to life in general.

The most innovative men are not professors. The world's richest men are not Ivy League alumni with MBA. They are not men and women who began with very high standards. Some didn't even have proper schooling and parents. The only thing celebrities seem to have in common is low standards. All the people who have shaped the world we live in, all the people who have given us this present world, did so simply by aiming high. Very high.

The best fuel in the world is enthusiasm. One that gives no consideration for the enormousness of the goal nor thoughts for the resources at hand. And according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the only way to achieve great things is to be enthusiastic. And Henry David Thoreau puts it this way, "None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm." According to Charles Buxton, "Success is due less to ability than to zeal."

None of us is going to make it out of this life alive, we can't outlive the world. We'll die someday and, hopefully, go to heaven. Yet we set standards that only limit our lives on earth. We have a long list of things we believe are below us. We want to climb a mountain but we don't want to start from the valley; we would rather live our entire lives on the middle ground than take the valley route to getting on top of our mountains. We give up our goals to satisfy our high standards. We don't want to be criticized, sneered at or perceived as little. We avoid living a crazy passionate life, powered with an enthusiasm that would make people hate and love you.

Everyday I struggle to lower my standards and keep writing, and keep doing the things that make sense to only me, and keep fueling my life with rocket force enthusiasm. The real fun in life is in the journey, not the destination. So I aim high, higher than I can reach. Because I'm only looking forward to having an adventurous journey that will last me a lifetime.

Today, I will be buying one of the latest Windows phones that run the latest Windows Phone OS (Windows 8.1 Phone OS). Why? I'll explain in the next paragraphs.

image: thesologuide.com
All my Excel clients did the first contact. They contacted me first. And when I was still at a full-time job and I couldn't meet the weekday training requirement some had, they asked me for whom else they could call. I have never had to compete with someone else for a client. It was always like I'm the only one. They made me feel like I'm the only one. Reason? We are very few in this line of business. The entry barrier is high. Not many people learn Excel deeply enough to quit their jobs to start an Excel consultancy. There's no buzz around it and the start is very difficult.

How many people do you know in Nigeria making their full-time income as an independent software programmer? Probably none. Me too. All the Nigerian programmers I know are working for Paga, for Interswitch and for other companies. Why? It's no small work. And by the time you are good enough to do this professionally, you would already be working for some company and won't want to quit to become an independent software programmer. The entry barrier is very high. 

I have made programs for clients in and outside Nigeria. The ones outside Nigeria just see me as one like many. They dominate the negotiation and pay whatever they desire. While the ones in Nigeria see me as one in a million and everything is done on my own terms. Sincerely, I have no (local) competition in the area of programming I do. 

So why am I buying a Windows phone today? I want to become a Windows Phone app developer. I have mentioned that several times before. I have read a couple of books already. I have made one Windows phone app already and published on the Windows Phone store. I have lots of app ideas I'm working on. It's now time I bought a Windows phone solely for app development purposes. 

It's going to be a hard tortuous journey and I'm not going to be able call myself a professional Windows app developer for the next one or two years. And I will have to sacrifice a lot of time that I could have put into making money. My goal is to end up building enterprise web apps for businesses and work enhancing apps for professionals. It will be a perfect mix of my enterprise knowledge, programming skill and the power of the internet. I will also try to remake my final year project as a home automation web app. Right from your phone, you can see all your home appliances that are switched on. You can see if your children switched off the water heater in their bathroom, if your housemaid switched off the cooker, if the clumsy guest you have switched off the pressing iron, if the last person to leave home turned off all the electric lights, and can also switch any monitored appliance on or off from your phone. It sounds complex, but it's not. I have done it before, as my final year project. This time I will redo it, and make the control portal a web app running on your phone.

Yesterday was a very hectic day for me. I left home early in the morning and got home at about 10:30pm. I had several blog post ideas -- a sensational post about PayPal's coming to Nigeria, an Excel how-to post, a post on success has no general meaning, a post on why you shouldn't follow trends and post sharing a famous letter by a world famous person. It wasn't easy making up my mind which to write on. And I still had to eat supper before sleeping; I have been skipping it a lot lately.

After 3 hours of self-deliberation, I settled for sharing one of the most profound essays I have read. It's by George Orwell and it's titled, "Shooting an elephant". I'm sure you'd greatly enjoy it.

image: npr.org
In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically – and secretly, of course – I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been Bogged with bamboos – all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the East. I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it. All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.

One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism – the real motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out. I took my rifle, an old 44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem. Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant's doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone "must." It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of "must" is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction and was now twelve hours' journey away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in the town. The Burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against it. It had already destroyed somebody's bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences upon it.

The Burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched with palmleaf, winding all over a steep hillside. I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of "Go away, child! Go away this instant!" and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed, clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man's dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black Dravidian coolie, almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes. The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast's foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend's house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.

The orderly came back in a few minutes with a rifle and five cartridges, and meanwhile some Burmans had arrived and told us that the elephant was in the paddy fields below, only a few hundred yards away. As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant. They had not shown much interest in the elephant when he was merely ravaging their homes, but it was different now that he was going to be shot. It was a bit of fun to them, as it would be to an English crowd; besides they wanted the meat. It made me vaguely uneasy. I had no intention of shooting the elephant – I had merely sent for the rifle to defend myself if necessary – and it is always unnerving to have a crowd following you. I marched down the hill, looking and feeling a fool, with the rifle over my shoulder and an ever-growing army of people jostling at my heels. At the bottom, when you got away from the huts, there was a metalled road and beyond that a miry waste of paddy fields a thousand yards across, not yet ploughed but soggy from the first rains and dotted with coarse grass. The elephant was standing eight yards from the road, his left side towards us. He took not the slightest notice of the crowd's approach. He was tearing up bunches of grass, beating them against his knees to clean them and stuffing them into his mouth.

I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery – and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided. And at that distance, peacefully eating, the elephant looked no more dangerous than a cow. I thought then and I think now that his attack of "must" was already passing off; in which case he would merely wander harmlessly about until the mahout came back and caught him. Moreover, I did not in the least want to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a little while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home.

But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man's dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the "natives," and so in every crisis he has got to do what the "natives" expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing – no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man's life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

But I did not want to shoot the elephant. I watched him beating his bunch of grass against his knees, with that preoccupied grandmotherly air that elephants have. It seemed to me that it would be murder to shoot him. At that age I was not squeamish about killing animals, but I had never shot an elephant and never wanted to. (Somehow it always seems worse to kill a large animal.) Besides, there was the beast's owner to be considered. Alive, the elephant was worth at least a hundred pounds; dead, he would only be worth the value of his tusks, five pounds, possibly. But I had got to act quickly. I turned to some experienced-looking Burmans who had been there when we arrived, and asked them how the elephant had been behaving. They all said the same thing: he took no notice of you if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him.

It was perfectly clear to me what I ought to do. I ought to walk up to within, say, twenty-five yards of the elephant and test his behavior. If he charged, I could shoot; if he took no notice of me, it would be safe to leave him until the mahout came back. But also I knew that I was going to do no such thing. I was a poor shot with a rifle and the ground was soft mud into which one would sink at every step. If the elephant charged and I missed him, I should have about as much chance as a toad under a steam-roller. But even then I was not thinking particularly of my own skin, only of the watchful yellow faces behind. For at that moment, with the crowd watching me, I was not afraid in the ordinary sense, as I would have been if I had been alone. A white man mustn't be frightened in front of "natives"; and so, in general, he isn't frightened. The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh. That would never do.

There was only one alternative. I shoved the cartridges into the magazine and lay down on the road to get a better aim. The crowd grew very still, and a deep, low, happy sigh, as of people who see the theatre curtain go up at last, breathed from innumerable throats. They were going to have their bit of fun after all. The rifle was a beautiful German thing with cross-hair sights. I did not then know that in shooting an elephant one would shoot to cut an imaginary bar running from ear-hole to ear-hole. I ought, therefore, as the elephant was sideways on, to have aimed straight at his ear-hole, actually I aimed several inches in front of this, thinking the brain would be further forward.

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.

I got up. The Burmans were already racing past me across the mud. It was obvious that the elephant would never rise again, but he was not dead. He was breathing very rhythmically with long rattling gasps, his great mound of a side painfully rising and falling. His mouth was wide open – I could see far down into caverns of pale pink throat. I waited a long time for him to die, but his breathing did not weaken. Finally I fired my two remaining shots into the spot where I thought his heart must be. The thick blood welled out of him like red velvet, but still he did not die. His body did not even jerk when the shots hit him, the tortured breathing continued without a pause. He was dying, very slowly and in great agony, but in some world remote from me where not even a bullet could damage him further. I felt that I had got to put an end to that dreadful noise. It seemed dreadful to see the great beast Lying there, powerless to move and yet powerless to die, and not even to be able to finish him. I sent back for my small rifle and poured shot after shot into his heart and down his throat. They seemed to make no impression. The tortured gasps continued as steadily as the ticking of a clock.

In the end I could not stand it any longer and went away. I heard later that it took him half an hour to die. Burmans were bringing dash and baskets even before I left, and I was told they had stripped his body almost to the bones by the afternoon.

Afterwards, of course, there were endless discussions about the shooting of the elephant. The owner was furious, but he was only an Indian and could do nothing. Besides, legally I had done the right thing, for a mad elephant has to be killed, like a mad dog, if its owner fails to control it. Among the Europeans opinion was divided. The older men said I was right, the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie. And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool.

Mark Cuban says you should keep buying and reading books, you will get business ideas from them, you will learn a lot, you will read about other people's stories and learn, you will see opportunities other people are missing, and most importantly, when luck smiles on you, you won't be found unprepared. That you shouldn't be bothered that you will end up buying books that are almost a waste of money; someday you will come across a book that will pay for everything a thousand times over. And that book is just a book away.

image: onlineselfeducation.com
For me, I think I have found that book. The book that will change my life, forever. It won't change it now or tomorrow or this month or even this year. But I have got big plans for the content of the book. It's the missing tool in my investment toolbox.

If you have been reading my blog since late last year, you would know that a big chunk of my stock investment is in GTBank shares. But in the stock analysis sheet I shared and said I use for my investment decisions, GTBank isn't in it. In fact, no bank is in it.

Banks' financial statements have very little in common with those of other companies. You can't just plug in the usual ratios. I remember spending over a week reading the GTBank 2012 annual report and financial statements, compared to the few days I spent reading Nestle's. Yet I could see that Nestle was doing better than Total, but priced much higher. I could compare Nestle, Total, Julius Berger, GSK, Dangote Cement and Mobil across all the basic investment ratios and even do a complete projection of the entire financial statements: Income statement, Balance sheet and Cash flow statement. But for GTBank, all the comparison I could do were in my head, not on Excel. I knew the revenue growth, the price to earning, the ROA and a couple other metrics, but they were all what was reported in the financial statements. I couldn't recalculate them using my own basis. I couldn't redo the balance sheet to even out the higher risks banks carry when been compared to a manufacturing company. I knew the general rule that a bank should not sell at a p.e. greater than that of the manufacturing industry average, but I couldn't figure out what was the fair price I should be willing to pay for a bank stock.

Now all that is about to change. I just bought The Valuation of Financial Companies: Tools and Techniques to Measure the Value of Banks, Insurance Companies and Other Financial Institutions (The Wiley Finance Series) by Mario Massari, Gianfranco Gianfrate & Laura Zanetti. It cost me over N9,000 and it's just a 256 page book. That's counting the title page, copyright page, preface, acknowledgement, table of contents, references and index. That's a sizable chunk of all the money I have made in the past 3 months.

It explains all that is unique about financial companies, their business models, the regulations that bind them and the right way to value them. It's not a beginner's book. And going by the preface, it's also not meant for intermediates. It's meant for analysts already familiar with the main corporate valuation models. Luckily, I've got an excellent (book) memory and have been betting my life savings on the practical application of what I stuffed in that memory. From the CFA books to expensive MBA books and to Securities Analysis books that I have given myself numerous headaches reading and understanding, I have managed to acquire the background knowledge needed to comprehend everything explained in the book. And then put them to practice. 

Too bad I'm short of cash. But I will make sure I'm prepared, put whatever I can spare into getting the invaluable practical experience and to test the verity of my analysis. Someday, a big window of opportunity will open and I will be extremely glad I have prepared for it.

Several months ago, I bought and read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and one of the numerous parts that I thoroughly enjoyed was his story of how he paid too much for a whistle when he was seven years old.

Here's the story:

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.
This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

The trouble with being a youth is that we have too many options. Lots of opportunities. There's hardly anything we don't qualify for or can't qualify for. And, naturally, a lot of things appeal to us. Hence, it's very common that we end up paying too much for a whistle.

Regularly, I examine my life to be sure that whatever I'm paying for -- in time, efforts or money -- is worth it. It's the reason I have put an end to all my ambitions to further my formal education. I'm not going to need more than my B.Eng to get to where I'm going in life. It's also the reason I have never applied for any job with a government institution, including NNPC. It wasn't easy. I have relatives who could and actually offered to get me a good job in a government run organization. I turned down their offers and avoided applying to such jobs, even when I was fresh out of school and wasn't sure how long I would wait in the job market, and when I lost my first job, and when I wanted to change my job. Reason. I have seen first hand how our government can ruin the lives of those who depend on it. Right from the strikes at university and poor university funding to the ill-run NYSC and to the decay I see in a lot of the government run institutions. I even didn't apply for the federal scholarship that was open to all final years students, and for no reason other than my aversion for anything government run. I was sure I would be sacrificing too much of my potential and then end up a mediocre if I worked for the government. It would be paying too much for a whistle.

Whenever I examine my life and all my activities, the question I ask myself most is, "Why am I doing this?" If I can't provide an answer that is not dependent on popular trend (everyone else is doing it) and that is not beyond monetary gain, I begin to plan the death of that activity. Like my previous job; for many months the only genuine reason I could give for doing it was that I get a paycheck at month end. But I knew the solution was not getting another job. No job is perfect. The job description might be perfect, but your boss or the work environment or your colleagues would undo that perfection. In my last job, it was the work environment. Every other thing was perfect. It was my third job and I chose my job role. I loved the job so much that I would come on some Saturdays and enjoyed my workdays than weekends. I was always closing late. I had a perfect boss. He is now my mentor, life and business. I had the best colleagues in the world, and a good relationship with almost everyone. Then when I began interviewing for other jobs I noticed their own imperfections, most had two imperfections: usually the work environment and the job role. In the end, I decided to work for myself. To create my own work environment, continue with the work I love doing, associate only with the people I admire and groom myself into a perfect boss. It's going to be a tough task but it's the only way I can avoid paying too much for a paycheck.

Finally, frequently examining my life is the reason I don't follow popular advice (tradition). My goal is not to live a perfect life, one with no faults. No. My goal is to understand the life God has given me, with it's good and cracks, and then make the most of it. Not absorbed in fixing the cracks. God must have put the cracks there for a reason. I don't spend my time trying to fix everything people complain of about me. I will be paying too much for acceptance. I focus on being the best I can be. And I will always remember that, no matter what I become, I've got feet of clay with it's cracks. But I will never pay to much for a whistle no matter the buzz around it.

I'm going to change the world. Why and how, I don't know and I don't care. After a deep immersion into the world and writings of entrepreneurs, today I can now call myself an entrepreneur. The success stories of all the entrepreneurs I have read about: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Evan Williams, Mark Cuban, Max Levchin, Richard Branson, and a hundred others are no longer stories to me. I have read so much about a couple of them that I now feel like I know them personally. I no longer just see myself as capable of changing the world. I'm going to change the world.

image: stealthincil.com
Entrepreneurship is all about self delusion. An unfounded notion that you can do anything and succeed at it. And change the world while doing it. And today I think the entrepreneurial bug in me has gone full-blown. I'm going to start from where I am, a Microsoft Excel guru, and not just go after a piece of the market pie. I will go after the entire pie. Warren Buffett says if you can provide a high quality product or service cheaply, the world will look for you even to the bottom of the sea. And he gave a practical example too, of a Russian woman in US who couldn't speak English well and had little formal education and yet killed all the established competition in her chosen area of business by simply providing the same high quality product for a much cheaper price. She could have been Jeff Bezos' inspiration for founding Amazon.com

Then I'll do what I have always been known for at all the companies I have worked: learn fast. I will keep iterating till I have not just one but several killer products. I will become synonymous with business data analysis in Nigeria. As long as I keep following the need, having a product for everyone especially those at the bottom of the pyramid. Whether it takes 1 year or 3 years, and regardless of what percentage of that time I'm broke I'm doing it.

I'm going to ignore the competition and established tactics. I'm going to bypass the middlemen. I'm going to focus on producing original high quality products and services. I'm going to aim at my end users, the real customers/consumers. Even if I have to offer them the services for free at first. Paypal began by paying people to use its services, now people can't imagine their lives without Paypal. Nigerians are currently begging Paypal to provide its services in Nigeria. In real life, only results matter. Not economic principles on pricing or academic arguments on marketing. Find a need, meet it better than the competition and, soon, there will no competition.

Keep doing it and you will change the world.